1672677323 The Qatargate grows with demands to lift the immunity of

The “Qatargate” grows with demands to lift the immunity of two MPs

The Qatargate grows with demands to lift the immunity of

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, announced on Monday the opening of summary proceedings to lift the immunity of two MEPs suspected of being involved in Qatargate, the scandal involving the alleged bribery of influential figures in Brussels that is affecting the European institutions and that, among others, the institution’s former Greek vice-president, Eva Kaili, and a former MEP, Pier Antonio Panzeri, are already in custody.

Community sources have confirmed to this newspaper that the requests sent by the Belgian judiciary responsible for investigating Qatargate concern Belgian Socialist MEP Marc Tarabella and Italian Andrea Cozzolino. The names of both had been high on the list of suspects since the scandal erupted due to their close ties to Panzeri, believed to be primarily responsible for the bribery scheme that countries like Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania are said to have paid for in order to secure favorable policies of the European Parliament. In fact, Tarabella’s home was searched as soon as the case began, on December 9th. Metsola still enjoys parliamentary immunity and was forced to return to Brussels urgently to be present at the house search of the MEP, who has so far denied any involvement in Qatargate.

“From the outset, the European Parliament has done everything in its power to assist the investigation. We will continue to make sure there is no impunity,” Metsola said in a statement announcing the start of the trial, which could last several weeks.

The first official step will be taken on January 16, when Metsola, as indicated in the minutes in these cases, announces the claim of the Belgian judiciary before the plenary. According to his office, this is the “first opportunity” in the legislative calendar. Next, the claim will be handed over to the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, chaired by Spaniard Adrián Vázquez (Ciudadanos), which will have to start a procedure that includes the appointment of a rapporteur and hearings of those concerned before drafting a report to be sent back to plenary. This is the one who will have the final vote (and the simple majority vote) on whether or not to lift immunity.

Maximum priority

Metsola has indicated that the entire process should be completed by February 13, asking all departments and committees involved to “give priority to this process”.

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“The responsible [del Qatargate] You will see Parliament take the side of the law. Corruption cannot be profitable and we will do everything we can to fight it,” stressed Metsola in his statement. A firm position that he reiterated on social media. “There will be no impunity. Nothing,” stressed the Maltese Twitter, which promised “profound reform” at the start of the scandal to improve transparency in the euro chamber.

Metsola will present its proposal “in the coming weeks”. This includes a “reform of the applicable regulations” and the “improvement of the internal control systems”, the Office of the President of the European Parliament has pushed ahead. The proposal to which EL PAÍS had access will consist of a plan with 10 anti-corruption measures proposing, for example, more protection mechanisms for those who report irregularities within the institution, a new “mandatory transparency register” of all meetings with countries outside the EU or impose control over MEPs’ contacts with interest groups and organizations from countries outside the EU.

Four people remain in custody on charges of corruption, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organization for Qatargate. This is Panzeri, a socialist MEP until 2019 and later the founder of an NGO in Brussels, Fight Impunity, suspected of being used as a cover to hide bribery. Panzeri was arrested at the start of the operation on December 9, when Belgian police arrested a total of six people and confiscated 1.5 million euros in cash.

In addition to Panzeri, the parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi and his partner and still MEP, the Greek Eva Kaili, so far the most high-profile figure in the European Parliament involved in the plot, are in preventive detention. Kaili, who was one of the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament, could be arrested despite her immunity because she was caught in “blank criminal activity”, one of the grounds allowing an MEP’s arrest. The European Parliament removed her as Vice-President three days after her arrest.

Also waiting in prison is another Italian, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, who ran another NGO closely linked to Panzeri, No Peace Without Justice. The Belgian judiciary has so far refused to release any of the four accused. In fact, last week he ordered the return to prison of Figa-Talamanca, who had initially been granted supervised release.

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